Irish teacher settles English college racism claim

An Irish teacher working in England has received almost £3,000 in damages after claiming he was a victim of racism at work, it…

An Irish teacher working in England has received almost £3,000 in damages after claiming he was a victim of racism at work, it emerged today.

Mr Tony Birtill (49) claimed a senior colleague at Skelmersdale College, near Wigan, made signs to suggest he was stupid during a health and safety meeting.

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The level of anti-Irish racism in the workplace is seen as normal and many people are forced to leave their jobs.
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Mr Tony Birtill

The Irish-language teacher, from Liverpool, was also told that his classes were likely to end in violence as the students were Irish, he said.

Mr Birtill took his case to an industrial tribunal, in Liverpool, after taking advice from the Council for Racial Equality.

But the case was settled out of court after the college agreed to pay £2,750 in damages with £400 costs. It apologised to Mr Birtill for any offence without admitting legal liability.

Mr Birtill said today he was "determined to fight against racism."

"This is happening all over the place," he said. "It's against the law and I am not going to put up with it.

"The level of anti-Irish racism in the workplace is seen as normal and many people are forced to leave their jobs.

"I was told by the Council that my case amounted to victimisation under the 1976 Race Relations Act."

Mr Birtill said a senior college manager had made the racist comments during a meeting in December last year, in which the safety of lecturers working alone was discussed.

The manager allegedly said that it could be dangerous for Mr Birtill working alone as his students were Irish.

When Mr Birtill, who is still teaching at the college, asked what was meant by his comment, the manager made a gesture indicating that he was stupid, Mr Birtill claims.

"I am very saddened that the management have put all their energy into defending the person making the comments and have been harassing me for complaining," Mr Birtill said today.

The college principal, Mr Philip Lewis, said: "I'm really sorry that Tony was hurt by the remarks made to him, despite the apology offered. I will ensure as far as I can that all staff are sensitive to the background and feelings of others, in all their dealings in the workplace."

PA